Tips for purging your pantry

Does your pantry spark joy or cause anxiety? If it's the later latter, then it's time to let go of what you no longer want or are using, reorganize the food so you can find it and create an organized space that will make you want to prepare healthy foods.   

Registered dietitian nutritionist Jennifer Hnat is here to get us started. See tips from Jennifer Hnat below. 

1. Purchase a variety of food storage and organization containers: baskets, glass or plastic jars, clear containers and varying sizes from teeny tiny to large (save receipts and return what you don’t use). Depending on your budget you can purchase a combination of items from Container Store, All Modern, Target, Ikea, Homegoods, Walmart, Amazon – you can find a full range of storage and organizational products everywhere. I’ve sold some of my nice Container Store jars on Next Door for next to nothing so be creative.  Budget-friendly tip: reuse glass food jars from items like salsa and pasta sauce. 

2. Carve out a weekend afternoon and commit to the task:  it can feel overwhelming to tackle this after work so plan for a good two to over four hours, depending on the size of your pantry, and schedule on your phone like a hair or doctor appointment. You can get the kids involved to teach them the value of de-cluttering as well. They can do fun tasks based on age and ability.  

3. Take everything out of the pantry and put in kitchen or living room and organize by categories: appliances, paper products, food (organize boxed cereals, spices, canned items, spices, everything boxed, etc). Everything you have in the pantry, take out and organize so you can see what you have. As Marie Kondo says, only keep items that spark joy. If there is any guilt, shame, or “I shouldn’t eat that,” toss it.

4. Check the expiration dates or sample the opened foods like cereal to make sure things aren’t stale or rotten. At least 30 percent of the food in your pantry is likely expired. I found an unopened bag of flour that had bugs in it, so it’s obviously going in the garbage or ideally compost it anything that is perishable!  

Read labels, is the food going to be something you will want to eat? If not, store in a pile to if it's unopened, donate to a food bank or food pantry.  

5. Wipe down and clean the pantry shelves and floor. You might need to use some elbow grease and polish up the walls with a magic eraser.

6. Logically think about what shelf you want items stored on and organize by food type. Bottom shelves are great for big plastic containers to store dog food, garbage/plastic bags; I love to have a metal mesh container for dirty dish clothes. If you have small children, the next shelf is kids goodies for a quick grab and go that visible on their level. Load snack items in small containers facing upwards and forward so you can see what they are. If you don’t have kids, you can store big appliance items that you use frequently or start placing containers of foods you use daily, like loose food items such as cereal, pasta, rice, bulk items, sugar, flour and more, that are now stored in the clear containers. I like to label them since I have a lot of specialty superfood ingredients.

Risers are helpful to utilize dead space above containers and make the pantry real estate more efficient. A lazy susan is perfect for oils, dips, hot sauce, dressings, liquid items, etc. Items that you use daily, such as salt, and cereal, place in a convenient and easy to grab location instead of having to hunt for it in the back or top shelf.  

Higher shelves are great for larger containers of pasta, rice, flour, sugar or items you don’t use daily as well as larger kitchen items that you use for parties or events (or anything else that you use infrequently.)

For more information on Jennifer Hnat, click here.